Saturday, April 30, 2011

Agatha Award Winners

It's always so much fun to find out who won the Agatha Awards. I've actually read these books! The Agathas were presented tonight at Malice Domestic. Thanks to Twitter and Criminal Element, I can tell you who won.

Best Novel - Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny. This was Louise's fourth Agatha in a row.

Best Nonfiction - Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran

Best Children's/Young Adult - The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith

Best First Mystery Novel - The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames (We'll be celebrating this win on Thursday when Avery appears for Authors @ The Teague. Join us at 2 p.m.!)

Best Short Story - "So Much in Common" by Mary Jane Maffini, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - Sept./Oct. 2010

They also announced a new category of Agatha Award next year, Best Historical. And, they honored Carole Nelson Douglas as Guest of Honor, and presented Janet Rudolph of Mystery Readers' International with the Poirot Award.

(I need to go to the Malice Domestic Convention one of these years!)

June's Treasures in My Closet

The June books are so exciting I can't wait to share them with you. Today, it's the treasures in my closet, and there are some gems here. I promise!

S.J. Bolton's Now You See Me kicks off the list. Lacey Flint, a young detective constable in London, stumbles onto a woman brutally stabbed just moments before. Within 24 hours, a reporter receives a letter pointing out similarities between the murder and Jack the Ripper's first, taunting Lacey by name. If the killer is bent on recreating London's past, the police have only five days until the next attempt.

Breaking Silence, like Linda Castillo's previous books, is set in Amish Country in Ohio, and features Chief of Police Kate Burkholder. Kate is called to the scene of a tragedy on an Amish farm, where the Slabaugh parents and uncle are found dead in what appears to be an accident. But, the coroner discovers evidence of foul play, and Special Agent John Tomasetti is sent to learn if these deaths are connected to recent hate crimes.

Melissa de la Cruz's Witches of East End introduces the Beauchamps, a family of incredibly powerful witches, who have been living in North Hampton, suppressing their powers. When they give in to temptation, and start to use their magic, they bring unwanted attention to themselves. And, it seems that there are dark powers working against them.

Paul Doiron, author of the Edgar nominee, The Poacher's Son, takes readers back to the Maine wilderness, and back in the life of game warden Mike Bowditch, who reopens a seven year old murder case, with opponents trying to prevent him from bringing a killer to justice.

There's been a lot of buzz about Daisy Goodwin's debut novel, The American Heiress. Here's the blurb. "Growing up in the opulent world of New York and Newport in the Gilded Age, Cora Cash has everything she could possibly want - except a title. Be careful what you wish for. What happens after the fairytale wedding to an English lord?"

Bones of a Feather is the latest Sarah Booth Delaney southern mystery by Carolyn Haines. When P.I. Sarah Booth Delaney takes on the Levert sisters as clients, she becomes involved with the family's sordid past, a missing four-million-dollar necklace, and then, a missing Levert.

A Bedlam of Bones by Suzette Hill brings back Reverend Oughterard, the renowned "humbug crunching vicar," and his talking cat and dog, Maurice and Bouncer. This time, they take on a blackmailer who is stalking the bishop. Think Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries set in a quaint British village mystery.

Here's one to watch for, Craig Johnson's latest Walt Longmire mystery, Hell is Empty. A confessed murderer and other convicts escape in a snowstorm, and it's up to Walt, guided only by Indian mysticism and a  battered paperback of Dante's Inferno, to pursue them into the icy hell of the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area.

Fred Lichtenberg takes readers into the complex world of a small Long Island community in Hunter's World.. When a syndicated romance columnist is murdered, lewd paintings are uncovered that lead to scandal. When the townspeople turn on Police Chief Hank Reed, he finds himself alone in the investigation, risking everything to find the killers.

Vigilante Stella Hardesty is back in Sophie Littlefield's A Bad Day for Scandal. When big-city businesswoman Priss Porter returns to town with a body in her town, she tries to blackmail Stella into helping her dispose of the body. Stella refuses to cooperate, but when Priss goes missing, Stella's implicated. It isn't long before she and her business partner Chrissy Shaw take the investigation into their own hands.

Inspector Peter Diamond returns in Peter Lovesey's Stagestruck. Diamond has to confront his own mysterious and deep-seated theater phobia to find a killer who strikes during a celebrity appearance at Bath's Theatre Royal. There are bitter rivalries, the disfigurement of a diva, and, of course, murder.

Rosamund Lupton's debut novel, Sister, was a hit in the UK. It's a thriller that proves there is nothing as strong as the bond between sisters. When Beatrice's sister, Tess, goes missing, she returns to London. When Tess is found dead, apparently by suicide, everyone but Bee accepts that she killed herself. But, Bee knows different, and, determined to find a killer, she takes over Tess' life to learn the secrets that could cost Bee her own life.

The Counterfeit Madam by Pat McIntosh is the eighth mystery to feature Gil Cunningham, set in medieval Glasgow. Gil is ordered to investigate an outbreak of counterfeit coins in Glasgow, but when he tries to look into the death of his sister's godmother, Dame Isabella, he continues to find false coins. Gil and his wife, Alys, are soon involved in sinister matters in their investigation.

The end of June brings us Brenda Novak's Inside, the story of Virgil Skinner. He spent fourteen years in prison for a murder he didn't commit, but, once he's out, he can't escape the gang he joined in order to survive. If they can't get to him, they'll go after his sister and her kids. To protect her, he goes undercover, back into prison to infiltrate another gang. Warden Peyton Adams doesn't want him in her prison. She's afraid she might not be able to protect the man she's attracted to.

With You Belong to Me, author Karen Rose begins a new romantic suspense series that  features Baltimore homicide detectives, district attorneys and prosecutors as lead characters. Two decades earlier, a young woman was brutally assaulted and murdered while onlookers did nothing. Now, someone is getting revenge on those witnesses, and Baltimore medical examiner Dr. Lucy Trask is the one finding the bodies. Detective J.D. Fitzpatrick has to convince Lucy to share secrets of her past connection to the case, secrets that might lead to her own death.

Karin Slaughter brings us a novel that looks as if it's going to be a powerful thriller, Fallen. Faith Mitchell is a cop. But, she's also a daughter. Her mother isn't answering her phone. Her front door is open. When she sees a bloodstain, she charges into her mother's house, finding a man dead,  and a hostage situation. But, she doesn't find her mother. Suddenly, Faith is a witness, and a suspect who finds out what hides behind the thin blue line; police corruption, bribery, and murder.

And, the final book in this month's treasures is John Milliken Thompson's The Reservoir. Thompson started out researching an old Richmond, Virginia court case for a nonfiction book. He ended up writing a story of historical fiction, beginning with the discovery of a woman's body floating in the city reservoir. Suicide? Or foul play involving an affair with an ambitious young lawyer. It's a story that ends in a riveting courtroom climax.

Well, I'm all set for June, even if no other books show up in my closet. And, just think. June's hot titles will be discussed tomorrow. What appeals to you in the list?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames

Avery Aames' first Cheese Shop Mystery, The Long Quiche Goodbye, is a finalist for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. In Lost and Fondue, she takes readers back to the fictional town of Providence, Ohio, where Charlotte Bessette, owner of Fromagerie Bessette, the cheese shop, is once again up to her neck in a murder investigation. It looks like Aames has another hit on her hands.

Charlotte's best friend, Meredith, had the idea to convert the Ziegler Winery into a liberal arts college. How much can go wrong with a fundraiser in an old building where there are rumors of hidden treasure? The actual question is, does anything go right?

Meredith is dating Charlotte's cousin, Matthew, who owns the wineshop attached to the cheese shop. He's also the father of twins, divorced from a woman who abandoned the girls and left for England. But, the day of the fundraiser, Sophie shows up, making an elaborate show of wanting to spend time with her "babies." Meredith's brother, Freddy, is responsible for a small group of art students, including his daughter, Quinn, who have painted in the winery. They seem like a high-spirited group of young people. But, everything falls apart that evening. Charlotte watches too many people argue at the reception, including Quinn and her boyfriend, Harker. Charlotte thinks it's a case of anger and hormones. Matthew argues with his ex-wife. Freddy argues with Harker. But, when Harker ends up dead in the cellar, Quinn is suspect number one on the police chief's list.

Charlotte's employee and friend, Rebecca Zook, pushes her to investigate. And, of course, Meredith begs for her help, insisting Quinn is innocent. Once again, Charlotte uses all of her local knowledge to snoop around, going a little too far at times. Will that snooping land her in a sticky situation?

Fans of Aames' The Long Quiche Goodbye will be just as pleased with the latest mystery. All of the favorite characters return from the previous book, Charlotte, her friends, and her enchanting family. This time, there's a large cast of suspicious characters. And, just as before, cheese lovers will find it hard to resist all the references to delicious flavors. My suggestion? Settle in with a nice cheese, a glass of wine, and enjoy Lost and Fondue.

Avery Aames' website is

Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames. Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. ISBN 9780425241585 (paperback), 312p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The 2011 Edgar Award Winners

Congratulations to the Edgar Award winners. Thanks to Margery Flex, Administrative Director at Mystery Writers of America, and author Duane Swierczynski, who tweeted at the awards ceremony, I can list the winners for you.

Best Novel - The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books)

Best First Novel by an American Author - Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Tom Doherty Associates - Forge Books)

Best Paperback Original - Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard (Random House - Bantam)

Best Fact Crime - Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime and Complicity by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry (University of Nebraska Press - Bison Original)

Best Critical/Biographical - Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendevouz with American History by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton)

Best Short Story - "The Scent of Lilacs" - by Doug Allyn, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Best Juvenile - The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hilestad Butler (Albert Whitman & Co.)

Best Young Adult - The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price (Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers)

Best Play - The Psychic by Sam Bobrick (Falcon Theatre - Burbank, CA)

Best Television Episode Teleplay - "Episode 1" - Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC America)

These awards were already announced -

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award - "Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man" - Evan Lewis, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Grand Master - Sara Paretsky

Raven Awards - Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, Forest Park, Illinois
                           Once Upon A Crime Bookstore, Minneapolis, Minnesota

And, last night, the Simon & Schuster, Mary Higgins Clark Award went to The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Winners and Edgar Nominees Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Tim Dorsey's Electric Barracuda goes to Kris O. from Durant, OK. And James W. Hall's Silencer will be sent to Trish R. of Decatur, GA. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

The Edgars will be presented tonight, but I'm offering two books that were nominated for  Edgar Awards this year. Laura Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere was nominated for Best Novel. I have an uncorrected proof to give away, the story of a wife and mother who had been kidnapped and held hostage for six weeks when she was fifteen. As her kidnapper sits on Death Row, he reaches out, contacting her.

Or you could win Paul Doiron's The Poacher's Son, nominated for Best First Novel.  Game warden Mike Bowditch took the opposite direction as his father who makes his living poaching illegal game. But, when the police search for his father, suspecting him of killing a cop, Mike is the only one who believes his father is innocent. Together with a retired warden, Mike goes searching for his father in the Maine wilderness, knowing he needs to stay out of the way of the real cop killer.

Which Edgar nominee would you like to win, I'd Know You Anywhere or The Poacher's Son? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at  The subject lines should read, either "Win I'd Know You Anywhere " or "Win The Poacher's Son."  Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email.  Entries only from the U.S., please.

The contest will close Thursday, May 5 at 6 PM PT when I'll draw the winners using a random number generator.  The books will go out in the mail on Friday.  Good luck!

Among the Departed by Vicki Delany

When I want to read a good traditional police procedural, with characters whose lives change in the course of the series, I'm very content to pick up one of Vicki Delany's Constable Molly Smith books. The Trafalgar, British Columbia setting is perfect, providing a small town atmosphere while the police have to deal with crimes that affect the citizens and the tourists who visit. Among the Departed, Delany's latest, is another satisfying story that incorporates one of my favorite elements in a mystery, the cold case.

Molly is with her boyfriend, Constable Adam Tocek of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, when his dog, Norman, is called out on a case. Adam is the dog handler for that area of British Columbia, so when a five-year-old boy goes missing from a campground, Adam takes Molly with him to search for the child. They find the child, but when Molly trips trying to pick him up, Norman uncovers bones that appear to be human.

The age of the bones lead Sergeant John Winters to suspect they may be the bones of a man who went missing when Molly was in eighth grade. She may have been the last person, outside of his family, to see Brian Nowak before he disappeared, since she spent the night before with her friend, Nicky Nowak. Brian Nowak's disappearance changed his family. Neither of his children had the life they expected to lead. In the course of the new investigation, family and town stories are going to be re-examined. Lives that were tragically changed years earlier can now impact innocent lives in Trafalgar.

It was a pleasure to return to Delany's Trafalgar in this mystery, catching up with Molly Smith, her friends and family, and John Winters and his wife. The lives of these characters are important to the stories and the plots. I'd recommend that any reader start with the first in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier.

Delany does a wonderful job showing how people can be affected by the past, linking one man to so many others. Although I love to read cold cases, one statement made in this book hit me. "Open up old wounds, potentially cause a great deal of pain. Cold cases could be very nasty things."  Among the Departed shows just how nasty those cases can get.

Vicki Delany's website is

Among the Departed by Vicki Delany. Poisoned Pen Press. ©2011. ISBN 9781590588895 (paperback), 277p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I read a copy of the book that I purchased for the library.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Alafair Burke's "Real Men Read Women" Campaign

Some of you know that my husband, Jim, was an eclectic reader. He read everything from quantum physics books to biographies to thrillers. But, for years, I had a hard time getting him to read female writers. Oh, he'd read Ann Rule's true crime books. But, thriller writers? It took me a long time, but I convinced him to branch out. Before he died, he was reading Tess Gerritsen, Alex Kava, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Unger and Lisa Gardner. In fact, he'd try a female author if I brought a book home. Success!

It's not always that way, which is why I asked author Alafair Burke if I could reprint the letter she sent the DorothyL listserv. With Alafair's permission, here's her letter.

I frequently get emails from male readers who say, “I don’t like women authors, but I do like you.” Appreciative yet perplexed, I started asking readers why they thought they didn’t like women authors. I know there have been related conversations here on the list, but usually I'd hear that women weren't hard-boiled enough, or that there was too much romance and not enough action. Or they simply believed that women writers were writing for women and not men.

I'd like to stamp out the saying "I don't read women," one t-shirt at a time. I also want to promote youth literacy. Like chocolate and peanut butter, the two ideas have come together beautifully with "Real Men Read Women" gear. I’ve enlisted just a handful of some of my favorite female writers in this fund-raising effort to support youth literacy. Thanks to bestselling (and super cool) authors Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Laura Lippman, Karin Slaughter, and Lisa Unger, “Real Men Read Women” t-shirts and other gear are available online at There's also a shirt that says "I like boys who read books by girls."

If this is a hit, I'd love to enlist other writers to lend their names to the effort down the road. I hope you all don't mind my posting a plug for the gear here. All profits go to youth literacy.


Alafair Burke
author of Long Gone and official t-shirt peddler

It's a great campaign, Alafair! And, a great way to support youth literacy. Thanks for letting me help spread the word.

Katharine Russell, Guest Blogger

 Today, I'd like to welcome guest blogger, Katharine Russell. She's the author of Deed So, a novel her publicist describes this way:

Deed So  is a moving coming-of-age tale set in a small Southern town in 1962, the year before America would be changed forever by civil rights, women’s rights, war, the assassination of a president, and more.

Welcome to 1962, one year before the world would witness President John F. Kennedy assassinated, and a time before civil rights, women’s rights, and the Vietnam War changed everything. Deed So by Katharine Russell chronicles the coming-of-age of brainy twelve-year-old Haddie Bashford, a sensitive young girl who wants nothing more than to leave the close-minded world of her home in Wicomico Corners. When Haddie witnesses the killing of a black teen by a down-on-his-luck white farmer, her family becomes embroiled in a web of hatred that threatens to engulf the whole town. Tempers flare and prejudice heats to a boiling point, even as Haddie struggles to fully comprehend what is going on, especially the dark consequences within her own family. When the murder case goes to trial, neighbor is pitted against neighbor, and the violence escalates to a dangerous level. As the case drags on, arson erupts, paralyzing the community. Can the town—and Haddie—survive?

Intertwining the major themes of struggle, equality, loyalty, and love that defined a generation, Deed So is a provocative snapshot of a tense time in history. Filled with larger-than-life characters, pitch perfect dialogue, and a wonderful sense of history, Deed So is as moving as it is thrilling. Haunting, edgy, and thought-provoking, this is a perfect read for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird or Nicholas Sparks.

Katharine Russell is a former executive in the healthcare industry.  She has a Bachelor's degree in History from Northwestern University, a Master's degree in Journalism from Boston University and a certificate in creative writing from UCLA's Writers Program.  A descendant of Maryland colonists, who grew up in Southern Maryland, Russell divides her time between Baltimore, MD, and Palm Desert, CA.  Under the pen name Kath Russell, the author writes the Pointer Mystery series.

Thank you, Katharine, for taking time to write this.
Guest blog by Katharine Russell

Deed So is the story about a tipping point in history. It is a snapshot of a society at equilibrium, just before it slips into a period of radical change. You can see the seeds of change germinating as you turn the pages. You know what the characters don't -- how it all turned out.

One of the things I liked most about writing DEED SO was experiencing  all sorts of wonderful stuff I hadn't thought about in years. The songs, clothing, pastimes and hairstyles of the Sixties. Funny behaviors like carrying your smokes in your rolled-up t-shirt sleeve. Teasing your hair so much, you were three inches taller. Enjoying treats like jawbreakers. Do they still have them? (Of course, even if they do, you're not going to catch me chomping on one after what I've spent on dental work!) I remember my big phonograph and how thrilled I was that it had an automatic record changer. There was no shuffle feature, of course. I remember my mother's wringer washing machine, our console television with its tiny convex screen, and my father hefting our first air conditioner into place in my parents' bedroom window.

DEED SO is about how far we have come, not in terms of washing machines and televisions, but in terms of equality, access and opportunity. What has been accomplished is pretty breathtaking, when you look back from the prospective of fifty years. Segregation is gone and so are the constraints around the roles for women. However, not everything has been 'improved.' I miss the freedom I had as a child in the Fifties and Sixties. I pretty much roamed free, rowing my father's skiff down through the marsh to the river, or wandering alone through the woods with our hunting dog in tow. As long as you were home by dusk, you were okay. Well, you were if you had done your homework. It is a rare child today who can enjoy such freedom. Too many two-legged predators about. I miss setting off my own fireworks, too. Sure, some things were dangerous, but that's why they were exciting. Better to learn how to be careful and handle something responsibly, than to live a dull existence in a safety cocoon.

I also miss the originality or authenticity of those times. McDonalds was just a bit more than a twinkle in Ray Kroc's eye.  Restaurants were as unique as snowflakes, each reflecting the skills and proclivities of its owner/proprietor. Ingenuity and self-reliance were much on display. In Deed So, the character Cleo solves a childcare problem by designing and building her own Jungle Gym. It was a little quirky, but it did the job. Rube Goldberg was alive and well and 'in the building.' Now, if you handcraft a toy for a child, you run the risk of getting sued over toxic varnish or sharp edges. Better to give gift cards. Every mall looks like every other mall from Maine to New Mexico, so different from the town square of Deed So.

I wonder what people will be nostalgic for fifty years from now and what they will be glad to be rid of. Here's some stuff from my list. I think I will miss regional accents. We'll all sound pretty much alike in another fifty years. I'll miss bookstores and libraries with row after row of bookshelves. I'll miss small neighborhood churches. I'll miss big Prairie Schooner style American cars. Yes, I'll say it; I'll even miss the postal service. On the flip side, I hope we'll be done with telemarketing by then. And, nothing personal, but I pray the Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan stories are finally no longer news. Also, I hope that cancer, Alzheimer's and autism, a tragic condition which features in Deed So, will be history.

I also contemplate how today's young people are being shaped by our times. Deed So details the deck of 'culture' cards the Baby Boomers were dealt. Some bad cards like racism. Some good cards like abundance and stability. What they made of this was a mission to insure access and opportunity for all, and an infectious optimism and idealism that convinced them this could be achieved in a generation. Although their results are mixed and the jury is still out, it's fair to say that the Boomers accomplished a lot that is positive.

What will today's Haddies chose as their generational mission? I hope they set the bar high. They have a toe in the last millennium, but they are most assuredly of this new age. They are our bridge, our continuity with our past and our shiny new prospect for a brighter future.

Deed So by Katharine A. Russell. Createspace. 2010. ISBN 9781453775035 (paperback), 438p.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Already Home by Susan Mallery

I had never read one of Susan Mallery's books, but after reading Already Home, I won't hesitate to pick up another. I don't know how many times I've mentioned that I read for character. Mallery's characters sparkle. That's the best word I can use for characters that attract attention the first time you meet them. Mallery gives depth and life to all of her characters, not just Jenna Stevens, the protagonist. Jenna's family members and friends are just as well-developed. I will admit, the two villains of this piece are one-dimensional, but the other characters shine.

At thirty-two, Jenna Stevens moved home to Georgetown, Texas after her marriage failed. Once a successful, creative chef, her marriage to a chef had eroded her confidence and destroyed her self-esteem. In a rash moment, she signed the lease on an empty building, planning to open a kitchen shop. She was just lucky and smart enough to hire Violet Green to work with her. At least Violet had retail experience, something Jenna woefully lacked. Together, they would ultimately be unstoppable. "Jenna had class and money and something to prove, while Violet knew how to make it, no matter the odds."

Actually, the odds were stacked against both of them. Jenna's confidence was so low, she was afraid to cook or experiment, the one thing that could attract people to her shop, Grate Expectations. She knew nothing about operating a store. She did have supportive parents, Marshall and Beth Stevens. Violet, on the other hand, had known little kindness in life. She was the daughter of the town whore, a woman who sold her daughter at the age of fourteen, and regularly abused her. Violet escaped, only to support herself on the streets until she could get a GED and move on. But, she was still haunted by her past. And, neither woman had faith in their abilities to pick good men, based on their past experiences.

So, picture a small kitchen shop where the two women are just starting to get the hang of working together, two insecure women. There's a great conversation when Violet suggests that Jenna has everything, a perfect life. It's a matter of perspective.  Jenna's response? "Excuse me? I'm getting a divorce, my husband cheated on me, I've just turned thirty-two, I have no kids, I own nothing, and if not for you, my business would have failed." It's a moment that brings the two of them closer when Violet admits, "When you put it like that."

Want one more thing to disrupt life? One day, Jenna's birth parents, aging hippies named Serenity and Tom, walk into the store, hoping to get to know the daughter they gave up at birth. It's a meeting that will change everyone's lives, Jenna, Beth and Marshall, even Violet's. And, so much changes in a novel filled with laughter, tears, and love.

I loved the characters in Susan Mallery's Already Home. I cheered for success for Jenna and Violet. I enjoyed Jenna's mother, Beth, and her relationship with her husband. And, I admired the two men who appeared to be part of long-term relationships for Jenna and Violet.  If the only weakness in this book were two male characters, that's fine. The two villains were eventually pushed out of the the women's lives. I couldn't resist Susan Mallery's Already Home, with its sparkle and joy, despite the past. Read this one when you want to see good women triumph.

Susan Mallery's website is

Already Home by Susan Mallery. MIRA. ©2011. ISBN 9780778329510 (paperback), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me an ARC, hoping I would review it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

It's always a treat to open a novel by a debut author. There's so much possibility there. What story will this author bring? Will the characters live on the pages? Sarah Jio's debut, The Violets of March, takes readers to Bainbridge Island in Washington, a small community where secrets haunt residents for decades, and generations.

Emily Wilson returned to Bainbridge Island when her life fell apart. She had once been a bestselling author, but hadn't been able to write anything for over five years. She loved and married a handsome lawyer, who left her for another woman. When her great-aunt Bee invited her to stay with her on the island, Bee and Emily's friend Annabelle knew Emily needed to heal. And, it was a restful place, until Emily discovered a diary in her bedroom, the story of a doomed romance from the 1940s. Once she immerses herself in that story, Emily will find parallels to her own life, and answers to family questions that have bothered her for years.

The diary told the story of a woman who passionately loved one man, but married another. Despite her marriage, and a baby, she still yearned for the man she had been engaged to, and rejected.  And, he still loved her, with a love that called to her, and led to tragedy for so many people on Bainbridge Island. Now, as Emily dates two men, her aunt continues to warn her there may be issues.

Jio's debut is a solid one. The parallel storylines work well to tell stories of assumptions that can doom relationships and lives. And, the reader can only hope Emily will learn from the disastrous events in the diary. But, so much in this story depends on chance encounters and accidental meetings. And, as much as I wanted to love this story, I only liked it. The large cast of characters, in two time frames, became confusing as I tried to guess who people were from the earlier storyline. Emily seems to be a voyeur, peering not only into lives in the past, but also into her own life, viewing it, rather than feeling it. Despite the author's best efforts, Emily appeared to be a researcher, rather than a real person. She just didn't come alive for me. She appeared to be trying to model her life after characters in her favorite book, or the people from the diary.

Saying all that, I'll be eager to read Sarah Jio's second novel. The Violets of March shows promise for an author who can vividly describe a setting, bringing that place to life. And, she did a beautiful job tying the past to the present, with all of the repercussions and relationships. Jio started well, but I have the feeling the future will bring more memorable characters. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this talented author, and those of us who want to read more.

Sarah Jio's website is

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio. Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. ISBN 9780452297036 (paperback), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Berkley Prime Crime's May Releases

It's Easter, but it's also a nice time for a short book chat. Here are the forthcoming May books from Berkley Prime Crime. Guest cat this month - Jinx.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron

If Hallie Ephron's latest novel of suspense, Come and Find Me, doesn't make you angry on behalf of the main character, and make you flip pages rapidly, hoping she's strong enough to survive, I'd be surprised. Normally, I don't read women in jeopardy novels. But, I felt vindicated when I finished this book, glad I'd read it.

Diana Banks had once teamed up with her husband, Daniel, and his friend, Jake, as successful computer hackers. But one incident that caused a death convinced Diana they needed to change their ways. They never had a chance to get their new computer security company off the ground before Daniel died in a climbing accident. Diana went into a tailspin. Her panic attacks grew so bad she couldn't leave her house. Instead, she shielded herself behind locked doors, existing in a virtual world. Her skills were good enough, though, that she and Jake could build the security company, with Diana working from home on her elaborate computer set-up.

Jake and Diana's sister, Ashley, got her through the first months after Daniel's accident. It was Ashley who forced her out of bed, into clothes, back into reality. So, when Ashley disappears after dumping her latest boyfriend, Diana is worried. She's so worried that, with the help of a policeman, she leaves the house to look for evidence her sister is gone. When the police drop the case, Diana forces herself to overcome her weaknesses, and continue looking. For Diana, that search only leads to heartbreak, and the ultimate betrayal.

I will admit, the book lacked some elements of surprise. I wasn't surprised to discover the truth, and the people behind Diana's betrayal and her sister's disappearance. However, I was so hooked into Diana and her issues that I was compelled to continue reading. I wanted to see Diana triumph in the end. Ephron's success with this book doesn't lie with the suspense. It lies with the creation of Diana Banks, a character with weaknesses that force sympathy from the reader. Diana's neediness compels the reader to cheer her on in her search for answers, and then, for justice.

And, although we all know we lack privacy in a world where we reveal so much on the Internet, Come and Find Me will make you a little nervous. We've all read that Apple is watching us if we have a smart phone. We know the government is watching.  But, who else is watching?

Hallie Ephron's website is

Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron. HarperCollins. ©2011. ISBN 9780061857522 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies

I fell in love with Brian Lies' artwork a few years ago when I reviewed his picture book,  Bats at the Library. Knowing that, the Youth Services Librarian at work brought me his most recent book, Bats at the Ballgame. If you think picture books are just for children, think again. This book is for anyone who loves baseball, bats, or a combination of them. Lies has given us another fun, gorgeous book.

Humans aren't the only ones who appreciate the beauty of a baseball field, the vivid green and brown colors. When bats get the chance to go to a ballgame at night, they find it to be an awesome sight. They watch the bats prepare the field for a game, with powdered sugar for baselines and a fork to rake the mound. Vendors sell Cricket Jacks, Mothdogs and Infield Flies. During the seventh-inning stretch the crowd of bats sing their own version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Grandbats tell little bats stories of baseball games and heroes of the past. And, when they think the umpire missed a call at home, they holler the ump is blind.

Each time I review one of Lies' picture books, I wish I could share the illustrations with you. You'll just have to examine the cover illustration to realize the pictures inside are just as detailed and beautiful. Lies places bats into ordinary circumstances; the beach, the library, or a baseball game, and brings them, and the setting, to life.  Bats at the Ballgame is a book to share with anyone who loves baseball, or has a sense of humor to appreciate the story of bats at at baseball game. I'm glad a librarian shared this one with me. Now, this librarian is passing it on to you.

Brian Lies' website is

Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ©2011. ISBN 9780547249704 (hardcover), 32p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library Book

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Winners & Crime in the Sunshine State Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest, a Cara Black giveaway. Murder in the Latin Quarter will go to Debbie L. of Achille, OK. Gale M. from Houston, TX won Murder in the Palais Royal.  And, because Michael Palmer's autographed copy of A Heartbeat Away never arrived from the author, Carol M. will receive an autographed copy of Mary Anna Evans' Strangers. Sorry, Carol.

There's always an abundance of crime in Florida, so this week, I'm giving away ARCs of two  crime novels set there. Start with James W. Hall's Silencer.  When a wealthy landowner is murdered, Thorn finds himself in danger, kidnapped by contract killers, and imprisoned. It takes the dark sheep of the victim's family to investigate his grandfather's murder and Thorn's disappearance, as they uncover a trail that leads back to the 1930s, and a sinister plan.

There's not much that says Florida more than one of Tim Dorsey's wild rides through the state with his character Serge Storms. In Electric Barracuda, Serge leads cops on a chase around Florida in a screwball story filled with action, adventure, and a few deaths.

So, would you like to win Silencer or Electric Barracuda? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at  The subject lines should read, either "Win Silencer " or "Win Electric Barracuda."  Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email.  Entries only from the U.S., please.

The contest will close Thursday, April 28 at 6 PM PT when I'll draw the winners using a random number generator.  The books will go out in the mail on Friday.  Good luck!

Staff Brown Bag Luncheon

I did my brown bag luncheon for the library staff yesterday. As always, it was fun. I love to get the chance to share books. And, the comments from staff are always interesting. Here are the books I discussed this time.

Allen, Sarah Addison – The Peach Keeper. In Walls of Water, North Carolina, two young women who seem to have nothing in common, share a history filled with secrets.

Ball, Donna – Keys to the Castle. Sara Graves’ poet husband died only 3 weeks after their wedding, so she’s shocked to discover she inherited a crumbling castle in France, along with problems.

Cleland, Jane K. – Deadly Threads. Josie Prescott’s latest venture, a workshop on building a vintage clothing collection, doesn’t work out when the teacher is found dead under a table.

Coonts, Deborah – Lucky Stiff. Lucky O’Toole, head of Customer Relations for Las Vegas’ Babylon, has plenty on her plate with bumblebees on the loose, the D.A. hiding naked in a laundry room, and an oddsmaker found dead in a shark tank.

Dorsey, Tim – Electric Barracuda. Florida authorities think they’ve finally tracked down Serge Storms, while his Internet travel-advice website shows people how to experience the state through the eyes of a fugitive.

Ephron, Hallie – Come and Find Me. Computer security expert Diana Highsmith has not left her house since her husband’s death, but she’s forced to take action when her sister disappears.

Hannah, Kristin – Night Road. Jude Farraday does everything she can for her twins, but a friendship ruins the life she had planned.

Hoffman, Alice – The Red Garden. A series of interwoven stories tells the story of the town and people of Blackwell, Massachusetts, from its founding through 300 years of history.

Lemmon, Gayle Tzemach – The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. The true story of a young woman who found a way to survive under the Taliban in Kabul, while sewing, and teaching other young women to sew.

McHenry, Jael – The Kitchen Daughter. A young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome has to cope when her parents die. She uses cooking, but her recipes attract ghosts who have a warning.

Palmer, Michael – A Heartbeat Away. When a deadly virus is let loose in the Capitol on the night of the State of the Union Address, only a man in solitary confinement in a federal prison might be able to help.

Rice, Luanne – The Silver Boat. After their mother’s death, three sisters travel to Ireland, looking for the truth behind their father’s voyage there years earlier.

Spencer-Fleming, Julia – One Was a Soldier. Three years after the last book in this series, Clare Fergusson returns to Millers Keep, where Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne hopes to marry her, but he doesn’t know the demons she brings back from the war in Iraq.

Vowell, Sarah – Unfamiliar Fishes. In her own unique voice, Vowell tells the story of Hawaii’s history and involvement with New England missionaries.

Whittle, Tina – The Dangerous Edge of Things. Tai Randolph just moved to Atlanta as heir to a gun shop, but wasn’t prepared to deal with the body in her brother’s driveway.

Wiggs, Susan – The Goodbye Quilt. Linda Davis’ whole life had been devoted to raising her daughter, so she makes the trip across country to take her to college.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil by Jerome Charyn

Jerome Charyn's Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil is part of the Icons of America series. The statement for the series says it's "A series of short works written by leading scholars, critics, and writers, each of whom tells a new and innovative story about American history and culture through the lens of a single iconic individual, event, object, or cultural phenomenon. In this case, Charyn examines DiMaggio's iconic baseball career, and the long years after Marilyn Monroe's death when DiMaggio just went through the motions of living, in contrast to that baseball life, when he never just went through the motions. I don't know when I've read a sadder biography.

Charyn divides Joe DiMaggio's life into three parts; the short period before baseball, the baseball career, and the long period after Marilyn Monroe's death. The son of a fisherman dropped out of high school after one year to play ball. During his years with the Yankees, he prowled center field. With his bat and his fielding, he became "The greatest living player," the Yankee Clipper who ruled baseball for thirteen years. He left the sport for a short time during WWII, serving reluctantly. But, he lost his first wife and son to baseball and his silence, his moodiness.  When another beautiful blonde, Marilyn Monroe, set her sights on DiMaggio, he didn't stand a chance. Marilyn needed Joe DiMaggio, the prince who could raise her from a starlet who posed nude for pinups, and was in trouble with her studio.  She used him while claiming to love another man, playwright Arthur Miller. But, DiMaggio loved her as much as he was capable of loving anyone. She dumped him after a year, but "It's DiMaggio who will get her out of the madhouse, DiMaggio who will bury her, who will clean up the mess, who will have roses sent to her crypt religiously for twenty years."

There's so much more to Charyn's book about Joe DiMaggio's devotion to baseball, and his image that lived for so many that saw or heard his exploits on the field.  It was his entire life, except for his love for Marilyn Monroe. When she died after his retirement, he really had nothing left. Although he was a spokesman for years, Charyn shows us that the man was just a shadow, holding a vigil for his lost life and his lost love. Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil is about the tragedy of a man's life, a long period of nothingness.  As I said, this is one of the saddest true stories I've read.

Jerome Charyn's website is

Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil by Jerome Charyn. Yale University Press. ©2011. ISBN 9780300123289 (hardcover), 192p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I reviewed this book as part of a blog tour. Blog Tour web site:

Jerome Charyn's  Bio:

Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until he left teaching in 2009.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

Jael McHenry's debut novel, The Kitchen Daughter, features a main character with Asperger's Syndrome. Before reviewing it, I have to clarify that I don't know anyone with that syndrome, so I can't speak for her accuracy in describing it. I can say that Ginny Selvaggio offers a unique voice in a story filled with recipes and food.

And, it is Ginny's voice we hear as she tells the story, so we see life through her eyes, beginning with her parents' funeral and the difficulties in hosting so many people at the house afterward. It's bad enough to unexpectedly lose her parents when they died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but Ginny can't cope with so many people talking to her, closing in around her, and touching her. She ends up hiding in a closet, trying to escape. That solution only convinces Ginny's younger sister, Amanda, that Ginny can't live alone. The two sisters will have to clean out the house, and sell it, allowing Ginny to move in with Amanda's family.

When everything feels wrong, Ginny turns to cooking. She can calm herself emotionally by talking her way through a recipe. She's an outstanding cook, taught by her mother to follow the rules. But, when she follows her grandmother's handwritten recipe, she calls up Nonna's ghost. It doesn't take long for her to realize she can call up ghosts when she uses handwritten recipes. But, the ghosts have messages that Ginny struggles to understand. They seem to go with a letter and pictures she uncovers, secrets she keeps from her sister. Ginny is wise enough to know she shouldn't tell Amanda any of this until she learns the truth.

McHenry's debut is all the more powerful for being told through Ginny's voice. Readers are caught up in her fear and anger. And, it's easy to understand the power that cooking has in her life, power to sooth her, but also the power to change her life. And, Ginny is very wise, although she doesn't know that. She's not stupid, and, she understands more than many people do that there are many types of normal.

The Kitchen Daughter offers lessons in life to readers as well as to Ginny. It's a story of loss and grief, and learning to handle what life has given. It's a wise person who knows that there are many types of normal.

Jael McHenry's website is

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry. Simon & Schuster. ©2011. ISBN 9781439191699 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tara Taylor Quinn - Guest Blogger

It's a pleasure to welcome Tara Taylor Quinn back. She has a very unusual story to tell about herself, her husband, and her latest book, It Happened On Maple Street, so I'm not going to spoil it. Thank you, Tara.

A huge thank you to Lesa for having us back! We’re on a fifty stop blog tour and finding great things at every stop. This one is a five star visit. Please take time to look around, to scroll through and read previous posts. If you’re anything like me, you’ll blink and find out an hour had passed without your knowing about it.

We’re here today talking about It Happened On Maple Street – a true, domestic violence survival story, written by me, a bestselling author of romance. In some ways my life is the biggest irony of all. But I’m changing it into the shining light of truth.

My husband, Tim Barney, and I met at 18. Fell in love. And because I didn’t tell him the truth about something that had happened to me, we went our separate ways. But I’d had a taste of true love. I’d met my true love. I knew that the love existed. And so I spent the next twenty-seven years writing about it. Successfully. I have 56 books in print with Harlequin and MIRA books. I’ve hit the USA Today bestseller list. I’ve won awards. And in my deepest core, I was living a lie. The only person I could love wholeheartedly, honestly, was my daughter. Because she didn’t have to know about my past. It had nothing to do with her. Parents weren’t supposed to saddle their children with baggage so keeping my secret was the right thing to do. Or so I thought.

I didn’t see, couldn’t see, that my baggage was in our home. It enveloped the choices I made. The people I associated with. In keeping my secret, I was setting an example for her that I regret with all of my heart. I told her to always listen to her heart. To act on the dictates of her own heart. I believed that I was doing the same. I was not. The only part of my heart that was open and healthy and capable of fully loving was the huge part that she owned.

My daughter is not the only person hurt by my silence. There are so many. And I bear the weight of that every single day. And so I bring you It Happened On Maple Street, the complete truth of my relationship with Tim and the abuse I suffered, with circumstances changed in the middle years to protect the innocent. I hope that in the telling of this story those I have inadvertently hurt will gain some understanding. And I hope that the one in four women in the United States who suffer from domestic violence still will find the strength and the will to take control of their lives. To dare to speak up. To dare to reach for the joy. Because the bottom line, the end of the story is that there IS joy. Wonderful, all encompassing joy. A joy that holds my hand through the hard moments. A joy that holds on to my life when I cannot see the value in it.

I’m here to testify that standing up is worth every single bit of the pain of doing so. I took my stand, twenty-seven years late, but I took it. In January of 2007 I verbally spoke my intention to take control of my life. And less then twenty-four hours later, I was blessed by an email in my inbox when I sat down to finish the work I had in progress (Behind Closed Doors, MIRA Books.) The email was from Tim Barney, my very first love. It was the first I’d heard from him in twenty-seven years. Six weeks later I’d moved cross country. And now, four years later, married to Tim, I am living the love I’ve spent more than twenty years writing about.

This past fall, at the invitation of HCI books (non-fiction publisher of the original Chicken Soup for the Soul books) Tim helped me write It Happened On Maple Street. It is our love story. And it’s so much more…

This post is brought to you as part of the It Happened On Maple Street International Blog Tour. For a complete tour schedule visit All blog commenters are added to the weekly basket list. Gift Basket given each week to one randomly drawn name on the list.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, or if you suspect someone is, please contact, or call, toll free, 24/7, 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). The call can be anonymous and is always confidential. There is not one second of life that is worth wasting.

Next tour stop, Tuesday April 19, Fresh Fiction:

To get your copy of It Happened On Maple Street, visit your favorite bookseller, or

Don’t miss The Chapman Files! Still available at:

It Happened On Maple Street is soon to be available on Kindle and Nook, too!; 

Thank you, Tara. It takes a great deal of courage to write and speak about abuse. Thank you for sharing your story in It Happened On Maple Street.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

In 2005, Gayle Lemmon headed to Afghanistan, looking for stories of women entrepreneurs, women who had built businesses there, despite the fact they were living in a war zone. She intended to tell the story of Afghan businesswomen who emerged after the Taliban's takeover. What was it like for the women left behind as men were forced to flee the country? The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, the story of one courageous, enterprising young woman, is an inspiring story for all women.

Kamila Sidiqi came from a family of nine girls and two boys. Mr. Sidiqi had seen enough of the world to believe that all of his children should be educated, including his girls. Kamila had just received her teaching certificate when the Taliban took over in Kabul in 1996. But, when the Taliban took Kabul, they immediately forbade girls to go to school. Women were also barred from working outside the home, and even forbidden to leave th,eir home without a male relative. If they did, they were in danger of being beaten, imprisoned, or even shot. And, men were being rounded up, forced to join the Taliban. With Mr. Sidiqi's past in the military, he knew he might be considered an enemy, so he left the area. His wife and oldest son soon followed, leaving Kamila at home with her four younger sisters and younger brother. When her father left, he told Kamila he was counting on her to be a leader for her sisters.

In a riveting story that reads like a novel, Lemmon tells of Kamila's success. Somehow she had to find a way to make a living for herself and her family. Calling on her older sister for help, she learned a dressmaking  skill, and set out to sell dresses to merchants. Despite ongoing dangers and threats of arrest at any time, Kamila built a business that helped not only her family to survive, but numerous other women, widows and young women who became sometimes the only support for their families. It's hard to imagine young American women of eighteen or nineteen taking on such a role under constant threat. But, Kamila's family business grew so much it came to the attention of international organizations, and by the time the Taliban were pushed out of Kabul in 2001, Kamila was working to train other women. Eventually, she had trained more than 900 of her countrymen and women so they had skills to build and grow their own businesses.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is fascinating. Mr. Sidiqi had taught Kamila that "Learning was the key to the future - both her own and her country's." It's a lesson she took to heart in the five years under the Taliban, and the years since as she continued to help others. It's so hard to imagine what Kamila Sidiqi did, with the help of her sisters, building a business that grew to support not only their family, but so many others. The author says, "They were just kids trying to survive another year of war together with no parents to watch over them." The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is an inspiring, moving story of courage. 

Gayle Lemmon's website is

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. HarperCollins. ©2011. ISBN 9780061732379 (hardcover), 257p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Importance of Libraries - National Library Week

Today is the last day of National Library Week, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't celebrate libraries all year. I encourage all of you to support your local public library and your school libraries. I'm ending the week with a posting from

The Importance of Libraries in Genealogical Research

In honor of National Library Week, has put together a white paper and visual graphic about libraries’ importance to our communities and to genealogists, and some of the difficulties they have been facing during the economic downturn.

This is their white paper.

National Library Week 2011: The Importance of Libraries in Genealogical Research

Posted on April 11, 2011

Libraries have long been an important resource for genealogists and family historians, and the advent of sophisticated digital archiving technology has further solidified their integral role to the family history researcher. Many libraries boast multiple public record databases and decades of archived newspaper pages, in addition to many other historical resources.

Unfortunately, in recent years, many libraries have been forced to cut back due to budget restrictions. That's why, in honor of National Library Week this week, we have started an awareness campaign to help keep local libraries well-funded and operational within our communities.

With the help of one of our expert genealogists, Kathleen Brandt, we conducted interviews with several important researchers and compiled our findings into a white paper, which you can download below.

White paper: The Importance of Libraries to Family Historians

Additionally, we've put together a visual graphic representing this pivotal moment for the American library system, taking a look at American attitudes toward libraries and reviewing their financial predicament.

We are asking every single librarian, teacher, and concerned citizen to help us spread the message of why libraries are important to the family history community. If you would like to take part in our awareness campaign, please share these resources with your readers, friends, and family, and help us celebrate National Library Week!

You may join the cause and share this post on library websites, blogs and Facebook/Twitter (shortened URL for tweets that we’ve been using:!

Happy National Library Week 2011!

The following facts are from

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice

I had never read one of Luanne Rice's books, although she's had twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. Do you know why I reserved The Silver Boat? It's a Pamela Dorman Book. In describing Dorman's imprint, Penguin Group (USA)'s site says, "The imprint will focus on books of the kind Dorman has published throughout her career: fiction, especially debut fiction that is both well-written and accessible, novels of character that are propelled by strong storytelling and a rich emotional core." Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was one of Dorman's first books when she returned to Penguin. And, I'll admit, I read for character. So, I picked up The Silver Boat, and had a hard time putting it down.

Dar McCarthy, the oldest of the three McCarthy sisters, never left Martha's Vineyard, their childhood home. But, when their mother died, her sisters Rory and Delia returned to help Dar pack it up, knowing they would be forced to sell. Only Dar, the artist and dreamer in the family, held out any hope they could save the house from taxes and a new owner. But, her dreams were based on her father's stories of Ireland, and a land grant that the McCarthy family received. Before he sailed away toward Ireland when Dar was twelve, she had walked the land with him, searching for the evidence of land ownership. But as much as he loved his wife and daughters, Michael McCarthy wanted to prove his worth. The master carpenter built a boat, and sailed across the Atlantic, arriving in Ireland to search for his birthright, then disappeared.

Although Michael's wife and daughters all missed him, it was Dar who was haunted by his loss. Her graphic novels were vivid stories of her alter ego, a ghost named Dulse whose father had disappeared. It was Dar who convinced her sisters to go with her to Ireland, in search of Michael McCarthy's story. That search would uncover truths that would change all three of the sisters.

Rice's characters are interesting, including the sisters' childhood friends, Andy and Harrison. I was fascinated, though, with Dar. If you fall in love with Dar, you'll love Luanne Rice's The Silver Boat. It's a story of faith, and love, friendship, sisters, change, and loss. It's the story of two islands, and the people who loved them. But, in the end, it's the story of Dar, the kind of spirit that never forgets.

Luanne Rice's website is

The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice. Penguin Group (USA).  ©2011. ISBN 9780670022502 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Winners and An April in Paris Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Casey Mayes' A Deadly Row is going to Pam K from Elizabethtown, PA. And, Jody C from Manhattan, KS won Juliet Blackwell's A Cast-Off Coven. The books will go out in the mail in the next two days.

No, I'm not sending anyone to Paris this week. If I could afford to do that, I'd be going myself.  But, I know three people who have been there this month, so I'm offering you the chance to visit through Cara Black's books. I have two autographed books in her Aimée Leduc mystery series. Murder in the Latin Quarter is the ninth book. When a Haitian woman arrives at the office of Leduc Detective claiming to be Aimée's sister, she's thrilled. But, she's soon involved in murky Haitian politics, which lead to murder in the Latin Quarter.

Or, you could win the tenth book, Murder in the Palais Royal. When Aimée's business partner is wounded by a near-fatal gunshot, she's horrified to be under suspicion for the attack. At the same time, a large sum of money mysteriously appears in Leduc Detective's bank account, and tax authorities descend. Can it get any worse before Aimée finds out who is trying to destroy her?

So, what section of Paris would you like to visit, the Latin Quarter or the Palais Royal? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at  The subject lines should read, either "Win The Latin Quarter " or "Win The Palais Royal."  Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email.  Entries only from the U.S., please.

The contest will close Thursday, April 21 at 6 PM PT when I'll draw the winners using a random number generator.  The books will go out in the mail on Friday.  Good luck!

International Thriler Award Nominees

Thanks to Janet Rudolph who posted the nominees for the International Thriller Awards on her blog, Mystery Fanfare. Here are the nominees, as listed by Janet.

International Thriller Writers Award Nominees

The International Thriller Writers (ITW) nominees for its 2011 Thriller Awards

Best Hardcover Novel:
• The Reversal, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
• Edge, by Jeffery Deaver (Simon & Schuster)
• The Burying Place, by Brian Freeman (Minatour)
• Skin, by Mo Hayder (Grove)
• Bad Blood, by John Sanford (Putnam)

Best Paperback Original:
• Down Among the Dead Men, by Robert Gregory Browne (St. Martin’s)
• You Can’t Stop Me, by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens (Pinnacle)
• The Cold Room, by J.T. Ellison (Mira)
• Torn Apart, by Shane Gericke (Pinnacle)
• The Venice Conspiracy, by John Trace (Hachette Digital)

Best First Novel:
• The Things That Keep Us Here, by Carla Buckley (Random House)
• The Poacher’s Son, by Paul Doiron (Minatour)
• The Insider, by Reece Hirsch (Berkley)
• Drink the Tea, by Thomas Kaufman (Minatour)
• Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens (St. Martin’s)

Best Short Story:
• “Second Wind,” by Mike Carey (from The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology, edited by Christopher Golden; St. Martin's)
• “Blue on Black,” by Michael Connelly (The Strand Magazine)
• “The God for Vengeance Cry,” by Richard Helms (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
• “Madeeda,” by Harley Jane Kozak (from Crimes By Midnight, edited by Charlaine Harris; Berkley)
• “Chasing the Dragon,” by Nicolas Kaufman (ChiZine Magazine)
• “Long Time Dead,” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (The Strand Magazine)

Winners will be announced at ThrillerFest VI, to be held at New York City’s Grand Hyatt Hotel from July 6 to 9.

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Can you tell I'm getting ready for a quarterly brown bag luncheon for the library staff? My reading is veering away from mysteries for a while. I know. As much as I love them, I can't go in and talk about fifteen mysteries. I need to talk about a few other books as well. And, Sarah Vowell's nonfiction is always interesting. She's covering her version of Hawaiian history in Unfamiliar Fishes.

I've read five of Vowell's six books. She always does a great deal of research, and then attacks a subject from an unusual viewpoint. In this case, she looks at the changes that took place in Hawaii after New England missionaries came in 1820. In the forty-three years they were there, they introduced a written language, brought the literacy rate to over seventy percent, built schools and churches, and helped to change the government.  However, not all the changes that came about were positive, including some of the governmental changes. Much of the native population, as with the Native Americans, were wiped out by smallpox, measles, and other diseases brought by the missionaries and sailors. The islands became ports for the whaling industry, and, eventually, after white men took over the government and land, the islands became home for American military bases. As a person who is part Cherokee, Vowell felt a kinship with the Hawaiians, who lost so much of their culture, their history, and control of their own land.

Sarah Vowell's latest book is not a happy book, although she's always witty in pointing out flaws in the way we view history. Take her comment about the Hawaiian war god, Ku. He may have been overthrown, but she pointed out, "Ku's new digs, the naval base at Pearl Harbor."

It's also not an easy book to read, with all of the detail about the missionaries from New England, and the history of their zeal. However, Sarah Vowell's books are always thought-provoking. Unfamiliar Fishes certainly provides a different view of the islands that seem like paradise to so many of us. Those islands were paradise to Hawaiians long before Americans wrested control from the native people. It's a fascinating, uncomfortable book to read.

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. ISBN 9781594487873 (hardcover), 256p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tony Hays, Guest Blogger

It's National Library Week, the perfect time for Tony Hays' guest blog about reading and libraries. Hays' third Arthurian mystery novel, The Beloved Dead, was just released a couple weeks ago. Hays received his third starred review from both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal for The Beloved Dead. According to Publishers Weekly, “Both Arthur fans and historical whodunit devotees will be more than satisfied.” Library Journal writes “Many complex plot threads and believable characters make this a series to be savored by historical mystery and Arthurian fiction fans.” Hays previously received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal for The Divine Sacrifice and The Killing Way. Here's Tony Hays, talking about libraries.

My daddy just didn’t seem to like reading. He just didn’t. He didn’t say exactly “don’t read,” but he grumbled. And that led to my first love.

I love libraries. I do. They took me to so many worlds, so many times. Libraries brought me to Troy. They brought me to the Civil War. They brought me to Camelot.

We were not poor, at home. But there was little left over with which to buy books. Daddy seemed to grumble when we did buy them. Of course, he also grumped when we read them morning, noon or night. And we read them all the time, all the time – in the tub, on the toilet, at the dinner table. But we ignored him as much as possible.

But the library! The library was Heaven on Earth. Daddy couldn’t fuss on us there. Those books didn’t cost us anything. They were free. (Well, sort of, but we didn’t understand taxes then). I read Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie (though I found her less to my liking). And the magazine section was incredible! I gloried in Punch and Time. I stayed in the school library as much as possible. That’s where I first read To Kill a Mockingbird and hope for more from Harper Lee. That’s where I picked up the Time magazine that had the article on the digs at South Cadbury, excavations that would eventually lead me to my new Arthurian series.

That was far in the future though. I still had hours of Civil War history, British history to learn. And I gloried in true crime – Lizzie Bordon, Bonnie and Clyde. My school library was the greatest place in the world. It took me to Heinrich Schliemann’s discoveries to London and Rome. It gave me my first gleam of the world beyond Nashville, TN. And that was worth all the stolen hours on its couches and side chairs.

While, as I grew, so did the spendable cash in my pocket, and I spent it at the local bookshops. I never gave up my love affair with my library. Daddy still grumbled some, about how I spent my hard earned money. But I found the public library and loved that too. It was a tad more risqué than the school library, but that was okay.

Time passed. I was to become a bit of a writer myself. Not published, of course. But I was submitting stories. Daddy had a heart attack. I went to college. Daddy died.

I kept submitting short stories. Kept getting rejected.

Until that beautiful, flat envelope showed up with that equally beautiful acceptance letter. No cash. But that would come later. I wondered what Daddy would say about that acceptance. Probably not much.

Years later, a couple of books, a hundred newspaper and magazine articles under my belt, I was having dinner with my uncle. He asked about my latest book, and we talked a bit about its success. “Daddy wouldn’t be impressed,” I ventured, absently.

My uncle snapped his head up. “What you do you mean?”

“Oh, Daddy hated it when we read, grumbled about it all the time.”

My uncle chuckled. “Your daddy read everything he got his hands on. Why, I know for a fact he once spent the last dollar he had for a book. We didn’t have much of a library at school, but he gobbled it up like a Christmas turkey.”

“Then why did he grumble so much?’

Daddy’s brother just shook his head. “I don’t know, son. Probably because if he encouraged you, you probably wouldn’t have done it. Besides, if he complained around the house, that would just drive you to the library, and that’s where he did most of his reading.”

Thank you, Tony, for a beautiful story about family and libraries. Visit to find out more about Tony and his novels, including information about the historical Arthur ( and photo galleries (

Tony Hays' latest book is The Beloved Dead. Tom Doherty Associates. 2011. ISBN 9780765326287 (hardcover), 400p.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jim's Birthday

Jim would have been 62 today. I didn't comment on the anniversary of his death, but, thanks to a couple friends here in Glendale, it's appropriate to comment on his life.

One of those friends, Dixie, participated in the cancer relay this weekend. So, in Jim's memory, I bought a luminaria. But, it was another friend, Susie, who wanted to decorate it. Lacking any artistic skills whatsoever, I turned it over to her.

Susie truly honored Jim's life, with everything she knew about him. Jim loved Ohio State. He hung out at Starbucks, He definitely considered himself an old hippie. And, I loved the two pictures she put on the bag, his grinning face, and, my favorite picture of the two of us, at the Grand Canyon.

She even quoted one of the statements he used to say to her, along with his comments that he and I only got married to read. Then, she quoted my tribute to him after his death.

One friend walking for cancer. One friend honoring Jim's life. Truly a nice way to remember Jim on what would have been his 62nd birthday. Thank you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming

We waited three years for Julia Spencer-Fleming to bring back Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. She left us hanging when she sent Clare to Iraq in I Shall Not Want. But, Fleming brought Clare and Russ roaring back to life in the unforgettable One Was a Soldier. It was worth the wait.

Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne waited for Clare to return to Millers Kill, New York. But, his planned romantic homecoming for her is broken up when he has to respond to a disturbance at a local bar. It's only the first time he and Clare will encounter the three people involved in the fight, Specialist Tally McNabb, her husband, Wyler, and Chief Warrant Officer Quentan Nichols. Tally will turn up in the veterans' group that Clare attends for counseling. And, all three of them will turn up in one of Russ' investigations.

Russ is eager to get back to life with Clare, hoping to marry her. But, she returned from Iraq, scarred with memories, dependent on pills and alcohol, hiding that from him. It isn't as easy to hide problems from the other veterans and the therapist, but she uses her role as an Episcopalian priest as a good shield for the truth. She can see the young Marine who hasn't let out his anger at losing his legs. She knows a returned veteran has anger issues. But, how can she, a leader and a priest, also have problems? Knowing all that they know about each other, when one of their own is a suspected suicide, Clare's veteran group can't accept that. They refuse to accept Russ' decision, and start their own investigation into a murder. Neither Russ nor Clare know how far that investigation will go.

One Was a Soldier could have been a dark mystery, dealing with veterans' issues and mystery. But, Julia Spencer-Fleming doesn't forget to alleviate the tension with humor. Russ Van Alstyne is a cop who understands that sometimes humor gets you through those dark situations. And, there's a great scene when the therapist for the veterans' group realizes they're intent on investigating the death of one of their own. Sarah addresses Clare. "You are not Daphne from Scooby-Doo. We are not going to get into a purple van and ride around town looking for a spooky old house." Then, when she realizes they're all committed, asked what she's going to do, she says, "I guess I'm going to put on an orange turtleneck and drive the van." Perfect sly humor for this story.

There's a complicated plot and mystery in One Was a Soldier, but, as always with Spencer-Fleming, her characters are the heart of the story. The Clare and Russ storyline has always drawn readers back, but there are other characters with a great deal of depth. The returning veterans have come home with issues civilians don't think about; nightmares, addictions, loss of limbs. Spencer-Fleming shows the depth of the problems, and the issues people don't want to face. We'd rather welcome them home, and then go on with life. The other members of the police force also have complex lives that add to the story's richness. Spencer-Fleming brought police officers back from war, officers who have matured, and changed. The rest of the force has to adjust to those changes.

We've waited a long time for a new Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery. One Was a Soldier welcomes Clare Fergusson back from Iraq, and Julia Spencer-Fleming back to the mystery world. The mystery world is better off with all of them here.

Julia Spencer-Fleming's website is

One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  St. Martin's Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780312334895 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me an advanced readers' copy, hoping I would review it.